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Side Effects of Cataract Surgery They Don’t Tell You About December 10, 2015

Filed under: Getting older — a.woman.aging @ 7:26 pm

I put it off as long as possible, partly due to my own anxiety, and partly due to the advice of the three ophthalmologists I consulted over the years for various opinions. At last, with my eyes already not able to be corrected to better than 20/50 on the left and 20/30 on the right, with the added cloud of cataract, things were getting so bad I couldn’t even shop very well anymore and driving was beginning to be a concern. Reading and computer activities were not a problem. Reading music was. I keep having to enlarge my music more and more, up to 120% which proved to be a lot of trouble and I still had a hard time seeing it.

So off I trotted to Duke Eye Center with the help of my dear husband and three days ago had the left cataract removed (the worst one) and a lens that corrects for long distance vision implanted. The procedure was a breeze other than having to wait a long time for my turn in the OR. The care and attention of the nurses and staff was excellent. A large green X was placed above the correct eye and then later the anesthesiologist put her initials to the side of the eye – no mistakes about which eye to do! I was assured, even though I had never had sedation, that I would handle it well due to my wine drinking habit. (Oh, goodness.) I saw lots of colors during the procedure each time my eye was manipulated, and other than knowing when the speculum placed to keep my eye open, I was aware of very little else. There was no pain at all. And none of what happened bothered me a bit. I suppose that is thanks to the modern drugs. (However, I got no feeling of any kind of high and my younger son told me that sedatives are no fun anymore.) Doug’s opinion went unsolicited.

The post-care instruction sheets that were given to us explained all about no heavy lifting, no bending, no sex (!), and other various prohibitions. However, I soon learned there were quite a few things they did not warn me about.

I did not know I had been living a life of bliss and innocence for many years. I am now finding out about the effects of what I can now see even with only one eye ‘fixed.’  I cannot even imagine how it is going to be in a couple of weeks when the second eye gets its new lens.

First, there is vanity. I took a look in the mirror after day two when my eye was settling down into its new state, and saw, to my horror, that I looked way older than I thought – so many wrinkles! Where did they come from? And, it appears that my glasses for years have covered up sagging bags under my eyes. Now what? Do I just accept this new knowledge about my real looks or do I learn to apply clever makeup and get special glasses to cover those bags? Time will tell. At least, everyone else looks older, too. Hopefully, I will be able to mind my manners and not mention that to friends.

Second, there is dirt and embarrassment. I had no idea how dirty my house was. Again I shudder to think what I’m going to see with two eyes instead of the one. Everywhere I look I see dust, dirt, smudges, spots, specks, soiling, grime, gunk, grit, stains, spider webs, spider droppings, lint, and general debris. I have swept, scrubbed, rubbed, and vacuumed to my current limited ability and, alas, I see every little return of a new spot or piece of leaf trekked inside. Now, I find myself wondering what others have thought about the state of cleanliness (lack thereof) of my home. Yikes!

Third, there is dizziness, discombobulation and, and mild nausea. I assume this is from my two eyes now being so vastly different – the new one being probably near 20/20, the other, the last time I was told, being about 20/900 uncorrected. I got my ever-patient husband to remove the left lens of my regular glasses. That made it worse. Finally I have settled on using my computer glasses with the left lens out of them. It has helped some but I still am vaguely nauseous much of the time and off-balance and slightly dizzy.  I am sure this will come to an end when my other eye is corrected.

Forth, my legs are full of bruises. Due to everything being cattywampus, and my head swimming slightly, I find myself lurching wherever I go and have been bumping into edges of stools and chairs and other things. Similarly when I reach for something I miss it, but that is not causing bruises, at least.

Fifth, there are other things to cope with in this period between surgeries. I struggle to keep my balance. I struggle to read and in fact really cannot read normal-size text. Thank goodness for dictation software on phones and computers. Headlines and large print are so sharp that I did not know letters could be that sharp. I am unusually fatigued. Someone pointed out to me that it takes a lot of energy to struggle to see, so maybe that is the reason. I can handle not doing my regular exercises (since I have a hard time making myself to them anyway) and not driving (my poor husband) and not doing all manner of other things one is not supposed to do or cannot do. However one of the forbidden activities is lifting heavy things so now I find myself urgently wanting to.

I am biding time between the surgeries and looking forward to the second one. I anticipate I will not be anxious at all since I now know what it is like and have a very competent surgeon. They have it so streamlined and efficient it is really quite amazing. I am exceedingly grateful for this aspect of modern medicine. My great-grandfather who was blind the last nine years of his life has been much on my mind. He had some of the earliest cataract surgery ever performed. The patient had to lie flat for a week with sandbags about his or her head to keep the head still while the sutures healed. Tragically, he choked on a liquid being fed to him and the sutures in both eyes tore; thus, rendering him blind. It must have been a blow for his ophthalmologist who was his nephew.  He had developed the procedure and did my great-grandfather’s surgery.

When I was seeing green through my new lens at the first post-op checkup, my doctor told me the lenses have a yellow tint to protect against UV light. My husband said he wished they’d been rose-colored.


One Response to “Side Effects of Cataract Surgery They Don’t Tell You About”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    ah this post needs to be widely shared, so edifying it is as to the vivid admixture of blessing of the wonders and expediency of modern eye correcting surgery. Thank you! I am very pleased for you (and for my future cataract-surgery-needing self) that the process and prognosis have improved so greatly since your poor great-grandfather’s day (and that of his poor surgeon-nephew).
    Doesn’t it seem that the vicissitudes of this aging business are rendered more poetic — and so much more tolerable — in the telling?

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